Top Pakistani Covers From 2011 (Part 1 of 2)

By Mutee 

As the music industry adapts to the changing mechanics of the world, we see increased artistic output and an even greater reception. Instead of record companies, the artists are turning to sponsors and the trend of cover songs is gaining momentum. Cover songs are a great way to show off your skills and pay tribute to your heroes, but it wasn’t a very common practice until very recently. So in order to keep you more updated on this developing phenomenon here is Koolmuzone’s list of Top Pakistani Covers From 2011.

Saad ul Hassan – Don’t Stop Believing (Journey) 

As if it wasn’t enough to have Saad Ul Hassan‘s amazing voice sing the ever popular gem that is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing“, the guys behind this sponsored cover decided to reinterpret the arrangement completely in a very unique fusion of styles. In place of the punchy Arena Rock of the original we get a much sophisticated slower track with room for additional melodic improvisation. The jaw dropping incorporation of Sitar (played by the amazing Rakae Jamil) is not the only highlight here. The vocal range of Saad as he performs the harmonies and additional vocals is tested to the full alongside his role as the keyboard player. Lastly the guitarist/producer, Hassan Omer (of Symt, Walnut Studios, Stage Monks), perhaps the most important person behind the effort displays his best with acoustic and electric guitars as well as being the music producer for the song. The group very wisely doesn’t attempt to go all Eastern, instead relies on amplifying the positive and happy melodies with a fresh set of ideas.

Aag – Bewafa (Imran Khan)

People who found Punjabi/Urban artist Imran Khan‘s music hilarious weren’t laughing when Aag released their cover of Imran Khan’s successful single “Bewafa“. True to Aag’s signature sound, the cover features a dark haunting atmosphere, furious distorted guitar riffs and a scream or two to complete the aural attack. Written at the request of BBC Asian Network’s radio program The Friction Show, the cover received great praise for translating the Desi R&B melodies to Rock genre while complimenting the original; in a sense acting as the amplifier for Mr. Imran Khan’s heartbreaking story.

Esharp – Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)

A little known group by the name of Esharp takes us back to the roots of Rock n Roll, their competent performance in this live acoustic cover is worthy of great praise as it updates the magic of Chuck Berry’s iconic “Johnny B. Goode”.

Usman Riaz – Saeein (Junoon)

The musical wizard Usman Riaz who first amazed us all with his wild and enigmatic abilities (showcased in the single “Firefly“) returns with a jaw dropping rendition of Junoon‘s breakthrough single “Saaein“. A departure from the original, the track is an instrumental arrangement which shifts to a more colorful Middle Eastern domain intensifying the unmistakable melodies of the original. Teaming up with the same guys responsible for the “Firefly” video, Usman’s return with Forward Media’s Bilal Khan and Shayan Agha resulted in a beautifully crafted dramatic audio-visual experience that goes perfectly with this mystical masterpiece.

Atif Aslam – Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)

Atif Aslam is one of the most recognized voices of Pakistani Pop, he is also the center of severe conflict between the nation’s music listeners. Naturally, his appearance alongside former Guns N Roses members for a live cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Wish You Were Here” only fuels the fire. The disregard of Atif’s popularity by the critics represents the extent of denial we are capable of. Nevertheless, it was a historic moment for any Pakistani to share the stage with legendary musicians such as Slash, Gilby Clarke. Duff McKagen and others. Atif was able to carry the tune with ease and stamp the evergreen ballad with his own unique improvisation.

Symt – Sunday Morning (Maroon 5)

Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning is a complex Pop tune with traces of Funk, Jazz and R&B. Reproducing the song exactly in a live situation is not an easy task, Symt however come pretty close. Some of the subtle bits don’t make the cut but the band manages to perform a crisp, full sounding version exhibiting confidence that hints at their technical and artistic prowess.

Overload – Here I go again (Whitesnake)

Farhad Humayun‘s Overload is an unpredictable beast, I have heard Farhad’s singing numerous times now but this one performance stands out the most. The tone he delivers is terrifyingly close to David Coverdale’s voice, at least in the lower notes. Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” is part of a series of live covers Overload did (dubbed “Live At The Apartment“). Overall it is a faithful cover but ends up being a bit soft, somewhere between the two different versions done by The Whitesnake.

Farhan Saeed – Halka Halka Suroor (Nusrat Fateh Ali)

The first release after Farhan Saeed‘s departure from Jal was this Nusrat Fateh Ali cover of “Halka Halka Suroor”. The performance has an emotional, dream-like feel, quite unlike the various incarnations of the Qawali done in the past. Surprisingly the new direction feels natural and the addition of subtle textures is nothing short of impressive.

Hassan Omer ft. Junaid Khan/Faiza Mujahid (1992 World Cup Song)

Memories of the glorious 1992 Cricket World Cup are strong as ever in our hearts but the official anthem for the tournament is unfortunately slipping away from our minds. Hassan Omer comes to the rescue taking the task of immortalizing this massive hit for the digital generation. The grey haired gentleman from Symt hooks up with familiar voices of Faiza Mujahid (Bandya from Khuda Kay Liye) and Junaid Khan (the voice of Call) and serves us with not one but two slightly different takes on this very important shrapnel from our explosive past.

Beneath The Covers – Billo De Ghar (Abrar Ul Haq)

Unrestrained and wildly talented, the young musician behind Beneath the covers are on a personal mission to reinterpret popular songs into Heavy Metal style. While they did a hefty number of covers in 2011 alone (more recently a version of “Sheila Ke Jawani“) this cover of Abrar Ul Haq‘s breakthrough “Billo De Ghar” deserves a special mention. Like most of their covers, only a few shreds of the original arrangement and melodies are kept, the rest is discarded to make way for Power Metal riffs, screaming solos and newer more melodic chorus. While the production skills at display have yet to catch up to the band’s great ambitions at the moment, Beneath The Cover’s work shows tremendous potential.

To be continued…